In the Young Adult Program, we strive to maximize student's potential and ensure that students of all abilities are equipped to meet the challenges of education, work and life. Our internships are constantly evolving and becoming more complex as students rise to the challenges that they are presented with. One of these examples is the Hospitality internship. In January of this year, the Young Adult Program opened up the Cast Iron Cafe, a gourmet brunch delivery business. I do not use the term "gourmet" lightly. Our very first dish was a Mediterranean inspired toast platter with avocado, ezekiel bread, poached egg, sundried tomato and feta served with rosemary, garlic and parmesan crusted smashed potatoes. Our most well-received preparation was a European breakfast that included dark bread, jam, fruit, gourmet cheeses, organic turkey and ham, organic hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt with homemade gluten-free cranberry granola. We want to exceed the expectations of what a school internship can produce.
The students are involved in every aspect of the business. They research recipes, write the food description used on our restaurant website, prep ingredients, cook the food, stage the plating area, artistically plate the food, deliver meals and iced coffee, collect money, and retrieve our reusable utensils and dishware (encourage sustainability!). As the students continue to familiarize themselves, and eventually master, each aspect of the business, we want to keep challenging them and demonstrate just how much potential they have. Our next goal is to involve them in designing and updating our website and companion ordering app.
The self-esteem that comes from the students presenting such professional and impressive meals is very real. Everyone, without exception, raves when they see the gorgeous meals the students present and, of course, it's the young adults who get all those kudos in real time!
Young Adult Program, Celebrate the Children
Every Wednesday afternoon, I meet with an eclectic bunch of people to work as a group to create a spectacular, original, meaningful, annual musical production called the, "CTC Spring Concert". This is the weekly meeting of the CTC scriptwriters; a consortium of many different minds. We are a group of students of all ages and strengths, aides, teachers, and one determined administrator. I have been part of this process for as long as we have been producing this monster production and have been witness to its very impressive evolution.
We started, years ago, working with a group of adult staff to produce an original and meaningful production that showcased our students’ talents and strengths and gently allowed our students to challenge themselves to perform to an audience in a safe space. Singing (solos, duets, groups) dancing, acting, crazy stagecraft, awesome sets, costumes and props... it’s all there. Along with the production, the scripting process has also evolved.
Our first production was a spectacular success. So many audience members commented, “this would have been an unbelievable show for a typical school... we couldn’t believe it was a special needs school.” All our staff, and I mean all our staff... aides, teachers, administrators, secretaries, custodians, all the therapists (Related Services), the family support staff (SFSS), the nurses, and of course the students, are all in, and year after year we make it happen.
It is amazing how our students were able to enter and leave stage silently, speak/sing on cue, rehearse, wait, and rehearse, and wait, and wait again…. patiently and willingly. Many tears are shed backstage - not by students with stage fright, but by awed staff watching our kids do things we have never witnessed before. Because of our DIR® training, we know how incredible the effort is and how much focus our students must have for it all to come together. They make it look easy - it’s not... but… yes we can! If we can hold it all together for 10 minutes to perform and wait patiently (for sometimes hours to get on that stage), we can hold it together for other situations and tasks; success and experience to build on.
Now, our production, script, character development, music and story, are now completely student created, by the CTC script writers. This process takes the entire school year from September through the end of June. We, as a group, bring a lot to the table as it is. It is amazing and heartening as a teacher of every one of these students, to see them use prior knowledge and experience to create new scenarios and stories. These students are making symbolic connections in a new way and building on the ideas of others; strategies that are at the core of DIR principles. It is really wonderful to witness those “Ah Ha” moments that show that our gang is capable of creative synthesis on a very high symbolic level. We argue, compliment, complain, cheer on, disagree (strongly at times) and build together, on all our ideas to form the crazy, fun, entertaining spectacular that is the “CTC Spring Concert”. Don’t miss it!
Mary Beth Scheerer, Art Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.